The National Aquarium and its Animal Care and Rescue Center will be closed through April 26 in response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus). CLICK HERE for more information.

Now on the Fresh Thoughts Menu: The Invasive Red Lionfish


National Aquarium - Lionfish

The National Aquarium is excited to introduce the Fresh Thoughts: Sustainable Seafood Dining Series at its Washington D.C. venue this March. This new series will celebrate sensible and scrumptious seafood choices with the help of renowned Washington DC chefs. The first of the dining experiences will introduce a fish whose taste is distinctive as its story; the invasive Red Lionfish. As part of a growing strategy coined Eat ‘Em to Beat ‘Em, the National Aquarium will embark on a week-long trip to the Bahamas on February 20, 2011 with Chef Xavier Deshayes, Executive Chef for the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, to collect, prepare and ship the fish that will be served just days later at the Aquarium’s first Fresh Thoughts dinner.

The Indo-Pacific Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans) has been invading tropical Atlantic waters at an alarming rate and is quickly threatening aquatic ecosystems as far east as Bermuda, and south beyond the Bahamas to the entire Caribbean. The National Aquarium in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) has been on the forefront of this invasion, studying methods of controlling the population and impacts of this venomous fish. After much research and help from the restaurant industry, it has been discovered that one potential method to control the population of this pest species is human consumption.

“At a time when concerned vendors, restaurateurs and diners are seeking sustainable seafood choices, biologists are suggesting that the red lionfish may provide a commercial opportunity as well as a means to control an invasive species,” commented Andy Dehart, Director of Fishes and Aquatic Invertebrates at the National Aquarium. “With so many fish stocks over-exploited, we’re thrilled that lionfish offers a great-tasting fillet and we’re excited to finally introduce it to Washington DC food enthusiasts.”

This week-long trip will chronicle the “ocean-to-plate” journey of the lionfish from capture and handling to preparation and serving with Chef Xavier. Each day Aquarium divers will collect lionfish for Chef Xavier to prepare for human consumption, which involves removing the damage-inflicting spines that make them venomous. At the end of the week approximately 200 lionfish fillets will be shipped back to Washington DC for Chef Xavier to serve up to guests at the Aquarium’s first Fresh Thoughts dinner on March 3, 2011.

In addition to the three-course fine dining experience featuring pan-seared lionfish fillet, Chef Xavier will demonstrate and discuss the culinary uses and preparation of lionfish as well as share insights gained during the trip including meetings with US and Bahamian officials, local chefs and restaurateurs.

The concept of the sustainable seafood dining series is to offer unique dining experiences themed around a sustainable seafood choice. Guests will enjoy a cocktail reception and educational cooking demonstrations followed by a three-course seated dinner paired with perfectly matched wine in the tranquil atmosphere of the Aquarium after-hours.  

Tickets for Fresh Thoughts: A Sustainable Dining Series can be purchased by calling 202-789-2782. Additional information can be found here. The second dining experience of the series will feature guest Chef Barton Seaver, who has dedicated his career to restoring the human relationship with our oceans.